A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Like many youngsters, when I was growing up, it was important to find out where in the world I fit in. Being a highly sensitive male did not make matters easier. Like so many boys, I was socialized to conform to the traditional masculine role model, and as hard as I tried, it was often not easy for me. However, I grew up when non-conformity was popular among young people, so I believe I caught a break with the changes of those times.
As I have gotten older and arguably wiser, I now realize the importance of finding our place in the world. As an HSP, I find, like many HSPs, that meaning and purpose in our lives are critical for happiness. I often write about this in my blogs and books because I think it is a universal struggle with many highly sensitive people.
It’s important to recognize that it’s not just about how you fit in as an individual; it’s also important to acknowledge the perhaps trickier aspects of fitting in as an HSP. We are in no small measure different from most of the less sensitive people we share the planet with. Finding acceptance for our traits can be challenging and frustrating.
HSP characteristics will shape how you find your niches and where you will find them. Our need for critical environmental conditions influences our life decisions and reflects our strong desire for peace and harmony. Our requirements for downtime and rest will dictate time schedules, work environments, and even how our home is designed to accommodate those needs.
With that said, fitting in our space, your niche is more than just a type of work, home life, and social and environmental connections – it’s life. Our life. This deserves serious consideration for all HSPs.
Finding your unique niche – vocation as a driver
I’ve read many articles about the best career fits for HSPs. These articles account for our general characteristics as a group and describe our needs to help others and to find quiet workspaces. These places encourage our creativity, strong spiritual natures, and work ethic. Some professions include helping professions (teachers, doctors, nurses, therapists, caregivers, etc.), creative professions, academic careers, spiritual or religious leaders, and work environments that foster individual contributors, like I.T.
By drilling down even further for HSPs in search of set and setting, it is possible to combine several of these fields mentioned above, plus adding individual personality characteristics to customize the choices fully. But unfortunately, we still live in a largely conformist society, and this type of personal exploration is not often encouraged. And the idea, at the end of the day, it’s still about pursuing monetary rewards over intrinsic rewards, leaving meaning and purpose to get kicked to the curb.
Nevertheless, HSPs and the emerging HSP culture need to look toward several key factors in finding happiness in the professions. First, consider environmental conditions, which I believe are some of the most important factors for HSP career decisioning. This includes hard items, like office space and layout, sensory stimulation of the environment, and soft elements, such as co-workers, bosses, and how the staff is treated.
The meaningfulness of what you do is highly subjective; however, it should have major consideration in your decision. I don’t imply to speak for all HSPs, but work can be stressful and soul deadening for highly sensitive folks without meaning and purpose. Your work reflects you, what you need, and what you do. Be selective and pick the best place for you.
When all else fails, be your own boss.
In the last thirty to forty years, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur or business owner has gained considerable traction. It’s not just about the freedom or about creating and nurturing a successful business, but about using your talents, building an impactful organization, and making a difference in people’s lives, including yours. The best thing about taking this strategy is that it gives you considerable control over how things are run.
For some folks, running a company and having the responsibility for staff and plant is not their cup of tea. For these people, solopreneur might work better. You are the business and the only employee. This fits well for professionals, creative types, and helping professions. You still run the show, but you, in the end, are the only impacted individual. You live and die on your own merits.
Whichever course you take, expect headaches, but realize you have more control over your destiny. And because you get ahead of some of the major considerations, the headaches at least will seem less severe.
Another area to search for, seek out and participate in is your social niche. I strongly encourage all HSPs to find an HSP tribe to belong to. The support and understanding that comes with being in a group that already gets you (quirks and all) are healing and therapeutic. To be with folks who understand your struggles, aspirations, and ambitions is validating and encouraging. But don’t limit yourself to just HSP groups; branch out to find others with a common interest, hobby, goal, or desire and connect and share.
Finding the right partner can be especially hard for HSPs. You are unique in your love, affection, and connection needs. You will need to be patient in finding that special partner that understands you, accepts you, and desires to spend time with you. Finding the right person is worth the wait. Finding the wrong person and forcing a fit is a recipe for misery. This is one area we HSPs need to get right. Spend time exploring your needs before going out into the world to find a partner. It will be well worth it.
How much socialization do we need to do? It depends. Most HSPs I know don’t necessarily put a premium on constant socializing. However, whether we like it or not, we need to socialize to some extent, whether for work, education, or familial needs. Finding the right venues and people to associate with that make us feel appreciated and wanted is a good place to start. You, as an individual, can customize your social interactions to fit your needs and tastes.
Cause or purpose
I don’t think we all need to have a grand and deep purpose for being happy in life but having a mission can add meaning and value to your existence. This takes some soul searching, but I believe by looking deep (a thing HSPs do well), we can find our cause. I think it will call out to you if you listen. Use your creativity and imagination to parse through many options and combine and match the best to find your best fit.
Finding your place or niche in the world is more than finding the right livelihood. It’s also about acceptance and embracing who you are. You may feel you are a round peg in a square world, but there are round holes in the universe of pegs; you just have to find them.
It’s never too late. Don’t give up. Regardless of what stage of life you are in, you can do this. Encore career, purposeful retirement, just starting out, or mid-life crisis, when the opportunity arises, spring on it.
HSPs are the most purpose-driven people I know. Likely, you are too. Don’t ignore meaning and purpose for money, status, or to meet others’ expectations. This is your life; recognize your uniqueness, find your path and travel down it. This path will largely dictate your experiences, and those experiences will inform your existence and wisdom. Don’t be afraid to be you. Your life satisfaction may depend on it.
Please comment with your thoughts.
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Growing up in the Southern U.S. in the Sixties, my parents always instructed me to be a little gentleman. It meant to be polite, kind, noble of sorts, well dressed, and above all, not a ruffian. We were to treat young ladies as such and always defer to Southern gallantry in our social interactions. It seemed easy to me, as I was a pretty quiet, reserved boy who observed these stately protocols without much effort. Nevertheless, it was what was expected of me, and I delivered.
When I hear this term today, my framework for this chivalric ideal has shifted over the years. It seems somewhat stuffy and dated now, and there appears to be some confusion about what females expect from men these days, where politeness and good manners are concerned, like holding doors open, etc.
Now, this article is not a review of Emily Post etiquette but rather to examine a fundamental set of traits we once societally expected that men of good manners and good standing should exhibit. It is a code of honor of how men should behave and conduct themselves in public. Yes, it's old-fashioned, but let's see if we can update this a bit and modify it to fit nicely into a new outline model of masculinity with some HSP fine-tuning.
What of the word, gentle?
The origin of the term gentlemen comes from two separate roots, from the Latin, Gentilis meaning to be from a good family or tribe, which might explain its use in describing those of noble birth. The word man comes from Old English mann, certainly Germanic before, describing a human being, male or female, later settling into mainly about males.
An apt description of a gentleman came from the Reverend John R. Vernon in 1869, which states, "[The Gentleman] is always truthful and sincere; will not agree for the sake of complaisance or out of weakness; will not pass over that of which he disapproves. He has a clear soul, and a fearless, straightforward tongue. On the other hand, he is not blunt and rude. His truth is courteous; his courtesy, truthful; never a humbug, yet, where he truthfully can, he prefers to say pleasant things. [The Rev. John R. Vernon, "The Grand Old Name of Gentleman," in Contemporary Review, vol. XI, May-August 1869]
By that time, days of fighting knights and rescuing damsels in distress was more of the stuff of legend, and most gentlemen had settled into lives of the landed gentry, certainly a gentler, safer lifestyle. Nevertheless, this notion of good breeding always lingered in the background. Good breeding was supposed to produce good behavior; at least, that was the ideal.
The history of chivalric behavior in men
Chivalry was a code of behavior that formed during the 1100 and 1200s in Europe. It largely originates from the Carolingian Empire and the period of romanticizing soldiers and cavalrymen. The term's etymology refers to the Old French, chevalerie, or horse soldiery. Chivalry was heavily weighted with Christian ideals and warrior attributes that signaled bravery and prowess. Much of the code was about sacrifice, obligation, honor, and duty to serve and protect. Over time it is easy to see that the gallantry and chivalric deeds became highly romanticized. The reality of the brutality and fighting was softened with tales of honor and noble largesse.
In modern times, chivalry morphed into gallantry, making it seem quaint and old-fashioned. Likewise, the ideals of protecting "fragile" women lost favor. Modern feminism and the notion of being a gentleman seem to have vanished with our modern shift in gender roles and expectations. But should we throw out the noble ideals of gentlemanly behavior? Is there still something worth salvaging here?
What attributes should be assigned to a modern gentleman?
If we were to morph the bones of gentlemanly conduct, what would we keep and what we discard? The shift away from combative arts to more cooperative behaviors might inform which attributes would be best to move forward. Instead of simple honor, obligation, protection, and warrior vices, perhaps we should replace them with characteristics like passion, strength (physical, emotional, and mental), wisdom, integrity, confidence, humility, compassion, empathy, creativity, and dare I say it? Sensitivity.
These qualities are noble and often seen in ancient religious texts as virtues. These are traits that all men should aspire to. In fact, all humans should aspire to these. Many of these characteristics are normal and native to highly sensitive people. We HSPs have a natural, gentle nature. This is not a weakness or frailty but a thoughtful and contemplative style of living. Not reckless, like blind drunk passion, but purposeful, maybe meted and coaxed from yet tapped spontaneity.
If we model a new masculinity
With this as a new framework, we could model a contemporary masculinity. A true gentle man identity that would be fitting for a world that needs kindness and a good measure of gentleness. A gentle hand is a steady hand, a hand that can guide, point to new horizons, and extend to help others.
We need not lose our maleness, our distinctive masculine drive. We simply need to tame the wildness. We need not forsake our bravery to move forward. We merely need to show courage's new face. We need not reject the instinct to protect. We simply need to use our protection wisely. We need not abandon our yang energy, the masculine; we simply must remember the yin energy (feminine) that resides in all of us.
Being gentlemen allows us to be "gentle men," men of good standing, of good hearts of wise thought and purposeful action with impeccable intent.
Let's bring the term gentle man into the twenty-first century and rebrand and reclaim it to reflect our times. It's no longer a term of advantage and privilege but one of service and humility.
Please comment with your thoughts.
Bill Allen currently lives in Lutz, Florida. He previously lived in Bend, Oregon. He is a certified hypnotist and brain training coach at BrainPilots.com. He believes that male sensitivity is not so rare, but it can be confounding for most males living in a culture of masculine insensitivity which teaches boys and men to disconnect from their feelings and emotions. His intent is to use this blog to chronicle his personal journey and share with others.